After four, decorated years filled with far more ups than downs, the tremendous college basketball career of Tanner Kretchman has come to an end.
As a freshman, Kretchman appeared in all 39 games for the Dragons and averaged 3.8 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game as the primary backup point guard. He also helped the team reach the NCAA Division II Elite 8 for the first time in school history.
“Definitely our trip to an Elite 8 (is a favorite memory),” Kretchman said. “We had a special team that year.”
In his sophomore season, Kretchman stepped up as the starting point guard and averaged 14.1 points, 5.8 assists and 2.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44 percent from three-point range. His breakout season earned him a spot on the All-NSIC First Team.
In his junior campaign, Kretchman became the 31st Dragons men’s basketball player to surpass 1,000 career points. He posted averages of 16.7 points, 6.7 assists and 3.1 rebounds per game and, for the second consecutive season, led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (4.7). He helped lead the Dragons to a 30-6 record and an appearance in the NSIC Conference championship game.
This season, Kretchman’s last as a Dragon, he became MSUM’s all-time leader in assists and remained a go-to scorer for MSUM, averaging 16.3 points in 38.2 minutes per game. It was a down season for the team in terms of winning, as the Dragons finished near the bottom of the conference with a 7-22 overall record, but head coach Chad Walthall doesn’t view that as a blemish on Kretchman’s time as a Dragon.
“I think when you look at his career in totality, very few players in MSUM history have had more efficient careers,” head coach Chad Walthall said. “He went to three NCAA Tournaments, a regional championship, an Elite 8 appearance, three (NSIC) North division titles, two (NSIC) overall titles, (named twice to) First Team All-Conference and one Second Team All-Conference.”
Kretchman is grateful for the team’s success throughout his time with the team, and especially for the people in the program.
“It feels like a long time ago since I came here,” Kretchman said. “It’s been a blessing. I just can’t thank the coaches enough and can’t thank my teammates who I’ve played with enough for making it so special. We had a lot of great seasons; some NSIC titles, trips to the national tournament and the Elite 8. It’s been a heck of a ride.”
On top of his accolades and accomplishments Kretchman achieved with MSUM on the court, Walthall praised his ability to set an example for the rest of the team with his demeanor.
“I think Tanner is quiet by nature, but I think actions always speak louder than words and actions go a long way,” Walthall said. “I think people really respected his workman-like approach. He’s always very consistent; you always knew what to expect from him in his effort and his attitude. When you get someone who is talented and has consistent effort and attitude, that’s a pretty good combination.”
Someone Kretchman had a positive impact on as a teammate is fellow point guard, sophomore Johnny Beeninga.
Beeninga was second on the team in scoring (14.8) and minutes (35.4) per game. Playing next to and behind Kretchman has helped him prepare for a potentially larger role in his upcoming years with the team.
“I learned a lot, Tanner’s a really great player,” Beeninga said. “I learned a lot about our offense … playing the same position with someone who’s older and been successful, he’s easy to look up to being the great guy he is.”
Another guard on the team who appreciated Kretchman’s leadership is junior guard, Travaun Coad.
The 2017-2018 season was Coad’s first with the team, but Kretchman’s presence helped him feel right at home with his new squad.
“On and off the court, Tanner was really mature for us,” Coad said. “He taught me a lot of things and I feel like I’ve grown up a lot. I learned how to handle situations both when things were going bad and when they were going well.”
Kretchman’s role with the Dragons has prepared him to further his basketball career after MSUM.
“I’ve had a few people contact me about (continuing to play), but I’m not quite sure,” Kretchman said. “I kind of want to start my (collegiate) coaching career and try to get into that as soon as possible.”